EAST RUTHERFORD (CBSMiami/AP) – The Miami Dolphins margin for error over the last five weeks of the season is very small.
The Dolphins haven’t been able to come through late in recent close losses, which certainly increases their desire to start fast against the lowly New York Jets.
Looking to recover from a narrow defeat and begin a push for a playoff spot Monday night, the Dolphins will try to extend their road success against a Jets team that’s turning back to Geno Smith.
Miami (6-5) is 0-3 in games decided by four or fewer points after blowing an 11-point fourth-quarter lead in a 39-36 loss at Denver last Sunday. It was the team’s first loss after entering the fourth with a lead of more than 10 in 14 years.
The Dolphins also gave up late leads in defeats to Detroit in Week 10 and Green Bay in Week 6.
“We have to find a way to win some of those games,” coach Joe Philbin said. “We are going to be in some more of those games. That’s just the way the NFL typically is.”
Philbin’s club is part of a tightly bunched group of playoff contenders. The Dolphins are in 10th place and one gamebehind a five-team pack fighting for the two wild-card spots.
Miami also trails New England by three games for the AFC East lead, though they defeated the Patriots in their opener and travel to Gillette Stadium on Dec. 14.
“I don’t think the records really matter right now,” Philbin said. “We have to go win a game against the New York Jets. That’s really the only thing that is on my mind and should be on our players’ minds at this point.”
The Dolphins, who haven’t made the postseason since 2008, have the advantage of playing the Jets (2-9) twice in their final five games. They’ve won five of six road meetings in the series, including a 23-3 win exactly one year before this game.
Ryan Tannehill went 28 of 43 for 331 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in that contest, but struggled against New York on Dec. 29, going 20 of 40 for 204 yards with one score and three picks in a 20-7 home loss.
Tannehill ranks third in the league with a 70.9 completion percentage and has thrown 12 touchdowns and three interceptions in his last six games. However, he did have a key fourth-quarter interception against the Broncos.
Jarvis Landry caught two touchdowns Sunday to give him four in his last four contests, while Mike Wallace added his seventh TD reception. Wallace has scored a touchdown in each of his last three meetings with the Jets.
The Dolphins have outscored opponents 231-137 in the first three quarters, the second-largest margin in the NFL. They’ll try to build an early lead against New York, which has allowed the second-most points in the first half at 15.8 per game.
The Jets are also tied for 30th with 27.5 points allowed per game despite ranking seventh in total defense at 324.8. They were outgained 336-218 in a 38-3 loss to the Bills in Detroit on Monday.
“Obviously, No. 1 is disappointment,” center Nick Mangold said. “No. 2 is frustration that we weren’t able to do our jobs. It’s difficult. You hate losing. You hate losing like that.”
Michael Vick provided a spark in his first two starts in place of a benched Smith, but he was 7 of 19 for 76 yards before being replaced by Smith in the third quarter Monday. Smith went 10 of 12 for 89 yards, earning another chance this week.
The second-year pro hasn’t started since Oct. 26 in a 43-23 loss to Buffalo in which he was benched after throwing interceptions on three consecutive possessions.
Smith also was replaced after going 4 of 10 for 29 yards and a pick in the last home meeting with the Dolphins, but he led three long scoring drives and completed 17 of 27 for 190 yards Dec. 29.
The Jets rushed for an average of 170.5 yards in a four-game stretch before managing 92 on Monday. They might be able to get the running game going against Miami, which allowed a season-high 201 yards last week.
New York certainly should have a good chance of making a few plays deep. Dolphins cornerback Jamar Taylor is out with a separated shoulder and fellow corner Cortland Finnegan is doubtful with a left ankle injury.
Tight end Charles Clay is doubtful because of hamstring and knee injuries, while offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James is questionable with a neck injury.
New York’s Jace Amaro is out with a concussion, while defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson will miss this one with a toe injury.
Amaro leads all rookie tight ends with 34 catches for 291 yards.
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